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PHOTOS: Family Equality Council’s Night at the Pier and GLAAD’s NY TGIF

27 Apr

Last night, I had the opportunity to see what the Family Equality Council has been up to at their annual Night on the Pier. Outside of raising over $200,000 to continue their fight to change national and local policy to protect LGBT families, but they also managed to bring together a slew of Broadway celebs and some recently discovered heroes from the movement.

Most of you remember the 19-year old Iowan, Zach Wahls and the incredible speech he made before the Iowa House regarding his life as the son of two lesbian moms. The speech made him an instant youtube sensation and has garnered him a lot more attention than this engineering student ever thought he’d receive. He made his way to a few interviews during the day, including this one with MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts, and then showed up to the pier.

Also at the event were cast members from Broadway’s Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, Rosie O’Donnell, Broadway performers such as Kate Shindle, Audra McDonald, CAA’s Joe Machota, R Family Cruise’s Gregg Kaminsky and Kelli Carpenter and hundreds more. (Full disclosure: Talk About Equality Co-Founder Sean Carlson is the New Media Associate for Family Equality Council – and I was thrilled to share the evening with him!)

Another wonderful new event that is picking up speed in several cities is GLAAD’s TGIF ( Thank GLAAD It’s Friday) parties. I’ve been able to visit one in DC and now one in New York. The networking event has been set up by local chapters of GLAAD and seeks to expand membership and to educate about the important work GLAAD is doing throughout the US.

Please enjoy photos from these two events!

Miss New York Claire Buffie and Hugh Gallagher

Jonathan D. Lovitz from Logo's The Set-up Squad

Thomas Roberts, Claire Buffie and Patrick Abner

Family Equality Council's Jennifer Chrisler and Zach Wahls

Jennifer Chrisler and Kelli Carpenter

Kimberly Galberaith and Broadway's Jodi Capeless

Rosie O'Donnell and Jennifer Chrisler

Jack Mackenroth

Bishop Gene Robinson and Douglas Carter Beane

Tracy Kachtick-Anders and Rosie O'Donnell

Will Swenson and Audra McDonald

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn

Priscilla's Nick Adams

Wonderland's Kate Shindle and William Franzblau

Priscilla's Tony Sheldon, Will Swenson and Nick Adams

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What Do a Playgirl Model, Miss New York and the Village People Have in Common?

2 Feb

Ronnie Kroell (photo by Melissa June Daniels)

Tonight, I was glad to be on the host committee for the birthday party of my supermodel, playgirl coverboy friend, Ronnie Kroell. Now…Talk About Equality is not here to chat about a birthday party – but when that birthday party is attended by Miss New York, Claire Buffie – the first Miss America contestant to choose LGBT equality as her platform, Village Person Randy Jones, Friends Project Founder David Raleigh and the whole thing benefits the Ali Forney Center for Homeless LGBT Youth – you can bet Talk About Equality had reason to go.

I had a wonderful conversation with Carl Siciliano, the Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center. He’s had a long year with lots of ups and downs. For several weeks, the center was in real trouble when Mayor Bloomberg announced enormous cuts to their budget, leaving LGBT homeless kids in the streets. Shortly after Bloomberg’s plans were announced, the Mayor released an “It Gets Better” video. Siciliano released a scathing response calling the Mayor out for his hypocritical message claiming New York is a wonderful place for LGBT kids to move to, while at the same time slashing the budget for the kids who move here without a home. The funds ended up being restored by Speaker Christine Quinn and the City Council and in the meantime, a light has been cast on this important issue.

Ronnie Kroell, In Between Men and In Between Woman, Michelle Clunie

The party was also a reason to watch the new online series, In Between Men featuring TAE friend, Nick Mathews. The series is a sort of “Sex in the City” for white gay men. Sure sure…we already have that…and it’s called “Sex in the City,” but, according to the creator of the show, Quincy Morris, he was looking to bring characters to life that he related to. He wanted to bring to life some multi-dimensional gay characters who were more like the gay men he knew. Though a male actor of color would certainly be welcome in the hit online series – it was great to see the cast show up for this wonderful evening.

We hope to see more attention being paid to our homeless youth this year. As I discussed with Carl, it’s wonderful to teach LGBT kids that It Gets Better, but more needs to be done to reach out to educate parents. So many kids are kicked out of their homes upon coming out to their parents. Maybe that’s the next step – maybe we need an “It Gets Better: PFLAG Edition” to educate the parents and families of kids that are coming out.

A quick shout-out to MS Apothecary, who was selling products to benefit the Ali Forney Center – I’m excited to light my soy candle!

All photos copyright Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com

As delicious as they look, they are actually "Bath bombs" by MS Apothecary

Miss New York, Claire Buffie

Birthday Boy Ronnie Kroell

Randy Jones and In Between Men's Nick Mathews

Actor and Birthday Boyfriend, Taylor Proffitt

Ali Forney Center Executive Director, Carl Siciliano

The In Between Men and Village Person Randy Jones

Happy Birthday Ronnie!

Miss America Goes Gay(er)

5 Jan

There are some (perhaps stereotypical) things which I feel would perhaps be nowhere without the support and/or participation of the LGBT Community. Among them are:

Musicals – I challenge you to put up a production of The Sound of Music with no Max, no Rolf, no Captain Von Trapp and no stage manager.

Figure Skating – WWBBD? (What Would Brian Boitano Do?)

Fashion – Project Runway is not all that far from Ru Paul’s Drag Race, let’s be honest.

And of course…

The Miss America Pageant. We make the gowns, teach the contestants how to walk, design the sets, choreograph the opening numbers and in some cases, they even let us judge (so long as we promise to play nice *cough* Perez Hilton *cough*). Sometimes we’re even mentioned ONstage.

Kate Shindle being crowned Miss America 1998

Back in 1998, the AIDS crisis took center stage at the pageant when outspoken equality advocate, Kate Shindle took home the crown. She took a chance in speaking up for those living with and dying from HIV/AIDS, and happily it has not been a cause she has everĀ  let go of. From 2003-2007, I was happy to found and produce the World AIDS Day Concerts in New York City with her and her passion for this cause is unlike any I’ve seen. Since then, Kate has been seen all over Broadway and is currently starring in Wonderland – a new Broadway musical based on Alice in Wonderland.

Now, in 2011, there’s a new crown-hopeful who is making waves. Miss New York, our very own Claire Buffie has chosen as her platform, LGBT Equality. This is the first time in 90 years that a contestant is standing up for the equal rights of a community that has helped make the Miss America Pageant what it is today.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet Claire on a few occasions

Miss New York 2010, Claire Buffie (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com)

and am happy to report that she is not only stunningly beautiful (as is expected), but she is well-spoken, articulate and has the same passion for equality, that our friend Kate Shindle continues to have for those living with HIV/AIDS. She marched in the NYC Pride March this June and walked over the Brooklyn Bridge as part of Marriage Equality New York’s Wedding March this past fall. And at any event she attends, she can almost always be seen having one-on-one discussions with LGBT people, young and old about their experiences.

We frequently talk about the need for advocacy outside the LGBT Community. And here we have a marvelous representation being given a nationwide television platform on Saturday, January 15th. As we know, the Miss America contest is going to be seen in televisions all across the country and I for one am very proud that New York is being represented by someone who can speak so eloquently about who we are.

Good luck, Claire! No matter what happens next week, we got your back girl. Come to think of it – who BETTER to have on your side at a Miss America Pageant? We promise not to go all “Drop Dead Gorgeous” on anyone, but our brothers and sisters backstage will certainly be there with some extra spray glue and glitter should you need it.

Taylor Proffitt, Claire Buffie and Ronnie Kroell (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com)